|World health leaders share updates at Malaria Forum|
The Rev. Larry Hollon (second from left), top
executive of United Methodist Communications and a spokesman for Nothing
But Nets, participates in a panel discussion at the Malaria Forum
sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. A UMNS photo by Amy
By Lynne DeMichele*
Oct. 22, 2007 | SEATTLE (UMNS)
United Methodist leaders in the fight against malaria are cautiously
optimistic about a newly released report on the safe use of a vaccine
that reduces malaria infection among infants in Mozambique.
Bishop Felton E. May, interim chief executive of the Board of Global
Ministries, and the Rev. Larry Hollon, who heads United Methodist
Communications, issued a joint statement in response to news reports
that the vaccine has passed another stage in the long process of
The study, reported in the The Lancet, a British medical
journal, showed that a vaccine developed by GlaxoSmithKlinePLC and the
PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative was safe for use in infants. It reduced
incidents of malaria infection by 65 percent in a group of 214 infants,
some of whom received the anti-malaria vaccine and others a vaccine for
Both May and Hollon noted that, while the test group was small and
the study's objective limited to safety questions, the vaccine's
"possibilities are encouraging."
Partnering against malaria
Both May and Hollon took part in the Oct. 16-18 Malaria Forum
sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, at which worldwide
health leaders shared the latest news in the fight against the disease.
Hollon was also a panelist in a forum discussion on "Bringing New
Partners to the Fight Against Malaria."
The United Methodist Church was the only faith group represented at
the Seattle event, which included more than 300 scientists, physicians,
public health leaders and top government officials from across the
The church was invited because of its early role in Nothing But Nets, a
year-old anti-malaria initiative in Africa, according to Elizabeth McKee
Gore, director of Campaign Partnerships and Nothing But Nets of the
United Nations Foundation.
School children in Lekki, Nigeria, perform a skit
promoting the effectiveness of mosquito nets in preventing malaria. A
UMNS file photo by Mike DuBose.
The people of The United Methodist Church are a founding partner in
the campaign to deliver insecticide-treated sleeping nets to Africa to
prevent the spread of the mosquito-borne disease. The church's
involvement is part of the denomination's larger commitment to combating
diseases of poverty. Other founding partners are the U.N. Foundation, Sports Illustrated
magazine and the National Basketball Association. So far, the
partnership has raised almost $15 million which, at $10 a net, is enough
to buy almost 1.5 million nets.
"The passion and enthusiasm of 13 million United Methodists, along
with the (church's) health infrastructure, including 32 African annual
conferences, is invaluable in the collaborative effort," said Gore.
Hollon said the unusual collaboration among United Methodists, the
U.N. Foundation and various sports entities prompted its presence at
this forum. "We have a remarkable connection and the assets to really
contribute to global change," he said. "The United Methodist Church
brings an infrastructure on the ground. The people of the church can
help put an end to the dying that results from malaria."
Joining Hollon on the Oct. 18 panel discussion were Major League
Soccer player Diego Gutierrez with the Chicago Fire; Andrea Lewis of
Idol Gives Back; and Stephen O'Brien, a member of the British Parliament
and chairman of the Malaria Consortium. Gore served as moderator.
"This (forum) illustrates the value of 21st century partnerships. No single group is going to eradicate malaria," Hollon said.
Nothing But Nets is "an unusual partnership for us," said Hollon.
"But it captures people's imagination and they're excited about it." He
said the church must continue to have a role in training, the delivery
of health care, strengthening community health systems in developing
nations and expanding public information through community radio
'Visionary and inspiring'
The Gates Foundation has spent more than $1 billion in the fight
against malaria. The Malaria Forum was the first gathering of its kind
in the world, bringing together those who can define specific needs in
the fight with those who can provide training, vaccines and
Billionaire philanthropists Bill and Melinda Gates opened the forum
by challenging leaders in government, the civic sector, industry and
nonprofit organizations to press ahead with the long-term commitment to
"Both were visionary and inspiring," said Hollon.
While no single tool exists to wipe out malaria, existing measures
like bed nets, insecticides and drugs can drive down the number of cases
across Africa and Asia, said Melinda Gates. Then new drugs, vaccines
and insecticides can be developed to completely wipe out the disease.
Worldwide, more than 1 million people, mostly children, die of
malaria each year — one every 30 seconds. Malaria has long been a
problem, particularly in developing nations where warm climate and
marginal health conditions foster spread of the disease. Since the
1950s, all attempts to eradicate malaria have failed. However, Melinda
Gates said anything less than eradication is "too timid a goal for the
age we're in."
"It's a waste of the world's talent, and it's a waste of the world's
intelligence, and it's wrong and unfair to the people who are suffering
from this disease," she said.
*DeMichele is a freelance writer based in Gig Harbor, Wash.
News media contact: Marta Aldrich, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nothing But Nets Promo
Gates Foundation looks to fight malaria
United Methodists commit to nets for Côte d'Ivoire
Emergency appeal aims to save refugees in Chad
Conference gatherings collect funds for Nets, missions
Delegation delivers nets to malaria-infested township
Twenty-dollar gift grows to $500,000 for Nets
Nothing But Nets
Nothing But Nets Campaign
Malaria Initiatives of The United Methodist Church
United Methodist Global Health Commitment
Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria
SWAT Malaria, African Medical and Research Foundation